The Buffalo Bills open training camp on July 31 at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, New York. Here’s a closer look at the Bills' camp, which wraps up on Aug. 25:
Top storyline: You can ask any fan in the bleachers, any reporter on the sideline, any parking attendant, or anyone selling hot dogs during Bills training camp this August, and they'll tell you the same thing: the team's top storyline is its quarterback competition. The seemingly endless debate throughout the spring and summer has been if EJ Manuel, Matt Cassel or Tyrod Taylor -- whoever wins the starting QB job this preseason -- can be good enough to put the Bills into the playoffs. In truth, nobody knows if the Bills will be able to get by with what they have at quarterback -- not coach Rex Ryan, not general manager Doug Whaley and not anyone else around the team. The team's goal this offseason was to build around that position and use managed, controlled performances from their QBs to win games. There's really no way to tell if that strategy will pay off until the regular season, no matter who wins the competition this summer.
Position battles to watch: Beyond the obvious quarterback battle, the Bills have few starting jobs up for grabs this August. Second-year right tackle Cyrus Kouandjio slid onto the first team this spring but will need to hold off Seantrel Henderson in training camp, while Duke Williams will need to fend off veterans Corey Graham and Bacarri Rambo at safety. There should also be some intriguing battles for playing time at wide receiver between incumbent No. 2 receiver Robert Woods and free-agent signing Percy Harvin, as well as at tight end behind pricey offseason pickup Charles Clay.
Veterans to watch: Running back LeSean McCoy considers himself a star and he'll have to live up to that billing if the Bills' offense is to be playoff worthy this season. Fans outside Buffalo probably considered Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller a top-notch duo at running back, but that pairing underperformed last season, with the Bills finishing 26th in rushing average (3.69 yards per rush). McCoy is also coming off a "down" year in which his rushing average dropped from 5.1 yards in 2013 to 4.2 yards last season. He's still one of the best at his job in the NFL, and all eyes will be on McCoy as the Bills feed him the ball relentlessly this fall.
Rookies to watch: The Bills had a small, six-man rookie class that was without a first-round selection because of last year's trade for Sammy Watkins. Of that group, Louisville's John Miller, a third-round pick, is the most likely to start on opening day. He'll slide into a right guard spot that was a disaster last season, and it won't be easy for Miller. He'll be tasked with blocking Miami's Ndamukong Suh twice this season, as well as a potent New York Jets defensive line that includes Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson and Mo Wilkerson. Outside of quarterback, the Bills' Achilles' heel last season was their offensive line, and the team is counting on Miller to help turn that around.
Bubble watch: Would the Bills really cut Cassel? I believe there is a possibility that it could happen, especially if Cassel's cringe-worthy spring performance continues into training camp. Cassel is due a $4.15 million base salary this season, a payment that the Bills can avoid paying if they cut the veteran before the regular season and opt to roll with Manuel and Taylor as their quarterbacks. Elsewhere, 2013 third-round pick Marquise Goodwin is fighting for his roster spot at wide receiver following the addition of Harvin.
Kromer conundrum: Rarely is an NFL coach arrested, especially so soon before the start of training camp, but the Bills found themselves in a tight spot when offensive line coach Aaron Kromer was charged with misdemeanor battery as part of an altercation over beach chairs in Florida earlier this month. Kromer was placed on indefinite paid administrative leave two days later and won't appear in court until Aug. 12. The team has yet to announce how it will replace Kromer, a veteran NFL coach who has experience as an interim head coach for the New Orleans Saints and as an offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears. Assistant offensive line coach Kurt Anderson will have a lot on his plate if he is tapped to fill in for Kromer.
For daily updates at camp, check out the Buffalo Bills clubhouse page.